Pirates show off park features

Team blames county drink tax for beer price hikes

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With a new restaurant in left field and the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet in right, PNC Park should be able to satisfy the biggest of appetites this season.

But for fans who enjoy a cold beer with their baseball, the park will be taking more of a bite out of the wallet, with the price of the most popular 16-ounce bottles increasing 75 cents to $6.75. A 16-ounce domestic draft beer will increase 50 cents to $4.75.

Twelve-ounce bottles of premium beers such as Corona and Heineken will increase from $5.75 to $6.50.

The Pirates attributed the increases to Allegheny County's new 10-percent drink tax. The actual jumps, however, range from 11.8 percent to 13 percent. The team said it has tried to offset the increases by keeping the prices of many ballpark foods the same.

"We pride ourselves on providing an affordable fan experience at PNC Park," spokesman Brian Warecki said. "With this in mind we have tried our best to balance this tax increase by keeping the price of our popular family items flat, including our regular-sized hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, popcorn, pizza by the slice, french fry cups and fountain drinks, among others."

The left field restaurant, named the Hall of Fame Club, and the all-you-can-eat section are among the changes the Pirates highlighted during a ballpark tour yesterday in advance of Monday's home opener.

There also will be cushier seats for fans in the high-priced sections directly behind home plate and along the first and third base lines, chances to purchase authentic game-used equipment, including jerseys and bats, at the remodeled Pirates team store adjacent to the left field gate, and windows in the press box to pamper the Fourth Estate.

The All-You-Can-Eat seats could be the equivalent of a died-and-gone-to-Heaven experience for youngsters with growing appetites. The Pirates will offer 168 All-You-Can-Eat seats in section 147 in right field near the foul pole but could expand it to other sections in the same area depending on demand.

Fans will be able to feast on hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, salads (for the diet conscious), popcorn, peanuts, ice cream, and soda, as much as they want, for the entire game.

A concession stand with a "speed line" approach will be dedicated to the section. The only restriction is that fans are limited to taking maximum of four of each item each time they visit the stand, behind the right field stands.

The Pirates see the section as a popular spot for groups and families. They already have sold about 1,500 All-You-Can-Eat seats, available for Sunday through Thursday games. A single seat is $35 if purchased in advance and $40 on game days. The Pirates are one of 13 teams offering such a section this year, up from three last season.

"For families, it's providing good value. It allows mom and dad to take their kids to the ballpark and know exactly what they're going to pay for their entertainment and their food choices that evening," Pirates President Frank Coonelly said.

The Hall of Fame Club, above the left field bleachers, replaces the Outback, which closed last fall. The restaurant will be open to all fans with a ticket during a game, up to two hours before its start, and at least one hour after the last out and possibly longer.

It can accommodate 395 people inside and more than 100 on an outdoor patio. There also will be a full-service bar, 20 flat-screen HD televisions, and retractable glass windows to give the space an "open air" feel.

"You can see, smell and hear the baseball game going on," Mr. Coonelly said.

The Pirates also plan to book live bands to play at the restaurant after certain games during the season. The first to perform will be Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, on opening day. The space also will be available on non-game days for weddings and other private affairs.

Of the changes made to PNC Park this season, Mr. Coonelly said the restaurant probably will provide the greatest benefit to fans.

"It is something that not many of our fans could enjoy in the past and that now all of our fans can enjoy," he said.

The team also has renovated the Pirates Outfitters store near the left field gate. This year it will be offering authentic game-used items, such as jerseys, balls, bats, line-up cards and even bases for sale.

There also will be changes outside the ballpark. Mullen's Bar and Grill, with roots in Chicago, will open in the old Hi-Tops sports bar space on Federal Street near PNC. It will make a soft opening on Saturday at 5 p.m. and officially open Monday.

Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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